If you’re reading this, you probably have a dream of either starting a business or are already doing it.
And if you want to begin, I know you have a vision of how much product you will be moving in, say, the first month.
That’s great; ambition is everything and you certainly need it, but the moment you move from paper to reality, that’s when you realise that things aren’t quite so simple.
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When I was 22, my big brother Dennis introduced me to the second-hand clothes business. And that opened up my world a whole lot.
Growing up I came to understood the power of mentorship and I knew I needed a mentor if I was to get anywhere. But the real issue was reaching established entrepreneurs because they rarely have the time or patience.
Over time, though, I realised that I didn’t need a giant entrepreneur. That despite one’s area of interest, all businesses face similar dynamics, such as consumer patterns, sales curves and product value.
Since my brother had a thriving small-scale business, I tried to figure out how I could capitalise on this ‘free’ opportunity to learn a thing or two from him.
On one of the Saturdays, the busiest day of the week for him, I asked if I could work for him. My aim was to learn about managing a business.
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The period I worked with him was very enlightening, and I learnt lessons that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Hard work is king
I am the lastborn of three boys. My mother was a small-time trader in fruits. She made sure that each of us participated in the business and Dennis, the eldest, shone at this. He loved the business and really put in time and effort. My mother often said that hard work is rewarded with money. Even working with Dennis later on in his clothing business, I learnt that you needed to put in the work for the fruits to be evident.
Make them feel special
We have all heard that your network is your net worth. It is true. This time though, your network is your customer. Create a communication forum for you and your client. Make them feel special. They will always compare what they get from you and from other traders, and if they feel good about you, they will definitely spend more money with you.
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While getting new stock for the business, Dennis had different consumers in mind and he would point it out to me that one needs to know their consumers and what they love. This will increase your sales.
We would get out of Gikomba market and by the time we finished setting up for the day, he would have already called around 10 customers telling them that he had exactly what they wanted. This almost always translated to sales.
There won’t always be sunshine
Rainy days are always with us and I loved how Dennis was aware of that. He would count his profits, and then show me the portion he would save. He always said money was not promised and one needed to put some away and reinvest more in the craft that gave you the profit.
Make it an experience, not just a sale
Although he had a clothing boutique along Nairobi’s Jogoo Road, which is not quite an upscale area, Dennis made sure it felt upscale for his customers. That it was a great experience. He had refreshments, he carpeted the floors and ensured that every walk-in was promptly served.
I implemented these values the moment Dennis gave me permission to open my own shop right next to his.
Give your customers incentives
My brother knew what discounts could do for sales. So every week he’d make ‘discount banners’ and hang them up boldly in his shop. From him I learnt that if you happen to run a fast-moving goods business, you need to find a way to entice the consumer since the field is crowded with sellers.
The question is: why should I come to your shop instead of the other one?